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We Know Electric Blankets Are Cozy and Warm But Are They Safe?

by B.Annie on September 17, 2018

When the temperatures drop and you are trying to save money on the heating bill, an electric blanket may be your first choice. An electric heating blanket keeps you warm in  bed or when you’re sitting on the sofa during the winter months. We know electric blankets are cozy and warm but are they safe?

What are electric blankets?

Electric blankets are blankets that contain integrated electrical heating wires. Generally, there are two types of heating blankets; under blankets (or heated mattress pads) or over blankets. Under blankets are used directly on the mattress of the bed and below the bottom bed sheet. Over blankets are more commonly used above the mattress for more warmth. Smaller over blankets, such as heating pads, are frequently used for pain relief.

How do electric blankets work?

First, let’s look at how electric blankets work. They contain an insulated wire (or a different form of heating component) in a fabric material that heats up when plugged in. A control unit is attached to the blanket to control the temperature and manage the electric current within the blanket. Newer electric blankets have an automatic shutoff feature to prevent overheating.

Burns and overheating

Many newer model blankets use low voltage and have higher safety standards. However, there is always the concern and potential that a blanket could cause a burn injury. This is especially a concern for infants, elderly, and diabetics. These groups may have difficulties feeling if the blanket has become too hot and do not remove it. As a result of this may cause burns in the most severe cases. A number of burns have also occurred due to individuals falling asleep on the hot blanket. By having the same part of their body exposed to heat for an extended period of time, this increases the chance for burns. Most noteworthy, remember to turn the blanket off prior to falling asleep.

Fires

Electric blankets are like any other electrical appliance in your home that could spark a fire and cause harm. Experts estimate that there are 5,000 fires per year with 99% of them caused by faulty blankets that are 10 years or older. In 2016, a 69 year old gentleman was killed when his 30 year old electric blanket set ablaze. Just this year, the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled a number of Rural King electric blankets due to reports of overheating resulting in two incidents of fire and a burn injury. Electric blanket fatalities due to fire are rare, but do occur.  As with using any electronic device, always take the proper precautions when using them.

Do electric blankets cause cancer?

Household appliances, including electric blankets and heating pads generate electromagnetic fields (EMFs). EMFs are invisible lines of force or radiation, that surround any item that uses electricity. EMFs exist across a spectrum from very high frequency to extremely low frequency (ELF). Electric blankets and other household items tend to run on extremely low frequencies. According the American Cancer Society, ELF exposure is so common it’s hard to study. There have been a number of studies looking for possible links between ELF radiation in the home and childhood leukemia. Most of these studies have inconsistent results. After several studies with adults, most have not found a link between cancer and ELF exposure.

Are electric blankets safe during pregnancy?

There have been studies that link overheating with pregnancy loss and birth defects. However, using an electric blanket at a comfortable setting has not been shown to be unsafe for you and your baby. To avoid the risk of dehydration, pregnant women should not become so hot from the blanket that they perspire. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends pregnant women not sleep with an electric blanket, but only use them to heat up the bed prior to sleep. The ACOG also negates any correlation between electric blankets and birth defects if used at a comfortable setting.

Safety tips when using an electric blanket

  • Purchase blankets that have been tested and approved by nationally recognized testing agencies
  • Turn the blanket off when you are out of the room and not using it to avoid potential fire hazards
  • Replace old (10 years or older) and damaged blankets
  • Keep the blanket flat when in use as to not trap too much heat
  • Avoid washing blankets that are not approved for machine or hand wash
  • Don’t dry clean an electrical blanket. The cleaning chemicals can damage heat insulation and increase the risk of fire
  • Keep your pets away from electric blankets. Their claws and teeth can cause rips and tears increasing the risk of shock and fires

Electric blankets can be warm and generally safe.  Follow manufacturer’s instructions to ensure appropriate safety precautions are implemented. Making sure you stay warm, safe and cozy in your home is Winstar’s top priority. Need more information about our home services? Contact us today.